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has anyone every successfully desensitised a bad case of separation anxiety? Follow on from the Kenny the wonder dog thread!

(8 Posts)
dandycandyjellybean Tue 07-May-13 10:07:43

Just a cut and paste from my Kenny the Wonder dog thread, guess the title was a bit misleading! Thanks for those that answered, am looking into your suggestions smile.

I rescued our Staffie Kenny in January after starting a thread on here about getting a puppy. He continues to be a star and has really made our family complete...

You know there's going to be a but, don't you? grin

He suffers terribly with separation anxiety, no doubt as a result of his abandonment and probably being taken away from his litter too early. We stuff him a Kong, put the tv on, don't make a fuss on departure or arrival, he is walked very long walks twice daily, but cannot manage to be on his own without getting into a terrible state.

He is panting and out of breath and really stressed upon our return, and usually has wee'd and pooh'd even if he had been just before we left. Up to now he hadn't damaged anything (except when he managed to trap himself in the bathroom and chewed the door and the skirting board really badly)! Although upon our return today he had destroyed our front door mat. He hates being in an enclosed space, so leave him the run of the kitchen, sitting room with daytime bed, hallway, stairs and landing and ds room, where his night-time bed is. This is after we tried confining him to one room and again he really scratched the door badly.

It is really causing a problem, as my dh struggles to find the compassion for the state that drives him to this to override the wee's, poo's and today a chewed doormat! And I think it may be getting worse not better. Any advice would be welcome.

Rikalaily Tue 07-May-13 11:49:18

We adopted a 7m old Boxer/Rottweiler cross in May last year, he had awful separation anxiety, wouldn't even go outside for a wee unless we were with him and had full blown panic attacks if we left the room he was in, he's still a cling on while we are in the house (follows everywhere and when cooking he leans up against the back of my legs) but we can actually leave him for several hours in the house alone now. SA is very very common in rescue dogs, if you call the rescue that you got him from they will be able to advise and support you.

First of all, there is no quick fix, it takes time and consistency and in our case over 4 months but our boy was a very severe case and we took it extremely slowly.

Firstly we bought an Adaptil diffuser for the house and collar for him, just to help lower his general anxiety levels, you can also get a pump spray that you can spray in the immediate vicinity about 20 mins before you leave him.

We got him a crate which was his space, he didn't mind it when we were in the house but hated being left in it when we went out so we kept it for our mealtimes (he's an awful scrounger) and used it to do the early stage 'leaving drills'.

I did 'leaving' drills every day, many times a day. Because we couldn't even leave the room without him freaking out we had to deal with that first. I would put him in his crate and leave the room for 10 seconds, then come back in and ignore, let him out and then repeat, done at random times with no pattern. When he cracked the 10 seconds of me being gone without him fretting I increased the time slowly until we got to 30 mins etc. Then when that was cracked and I could finally leave a room without incident I did the leaving the house. Firstly I would grab my keys and sit down, then shoes on, sit down, ignoring him. Once I was ready to go out I'd just leave while ignoring him, go outside and stand outside the door for 10 seconds, come in and either sit while ignoring or take my shoes off (change your order of doing things around so he doesn't get anxious when he see's you getting ready to go out). No fussing him on leaving or entering, if he jumped for attention etc I would just push him away and get on with things, your coming and going should be a none event for him.

As I said earlier, it took many months of this every single day, I'm a SAHM so was able to do this with him. It was so frustratingly slow and I cried many times with the sheer frustration of not being able to leave the house without him but it was worth it. Now we just give him a Kong and leave, he just does his own thing. For the first few times we left him for more than 10 mins we set up a video camera to see how he was coping and we still do that randomly. A neighbour of ours hasn't dealt with her dogs SA and just leaves her regardless, she howls and howls all day and tries to escape through any windows that are left open a crack, it's heartbreaking.

Here's some sites that I found helpful

dandycandyjellybean Tue 07-May-13 17:12:48

Rikalaily thank you so much for your lengthy post. Have just had a quick read and not had chance to check the links yet but will and properly check back. Really appreciate you taking the time. thanks

moosemama Tue 07-May-13 18:39:47

One of our dogs developed SA when we moved house.

We followed a similar protocol to Rikalaily, desensitising her to signals that we might be leaving and getting her used to being left first for seconds, then gradually building up the amount of time she could tolerate. I still remember the neighbours giving me funny looks when reached the point of going out of the front door, standing on the step and then going straight back in repeatedly, gradually building up the amount of time and eaking my way up the drive and round the corner. blush

We are dealing with a less severe version at the moment with our lurcher after losing our older dog to cancer almost a fortnight ago. He has become very clingy, is following me around and has started drooling and howling when left, so I'm rewarding him spending time in another room and staying in his bed in the kitchen etc when I am in the living room, as well as making sure we don't pay him too much attention before and after we go out. We also have to keep reminding ourselves to not respond to his constant demands for fuss, which is proving the hardest bit, because we feel sorry for him missing his old playmate and also he's so slinky that he somehow manages to squirm his head in for a stroke without you noticing your doing it. hmm

I can't be as gradual with him as I was with our other dog, as this time round I have to do three school runs a day - although they only take ten minutes each max, sometimes less, so are actually good practice for him.

Separation Anxiety is often a tough nut to crack and I would really advise taking advice from a qualified behaviourist. Have a look on the CAPBT/COAPE and APDT websites. You will need a referral from your vet to see a CAPBT/COAPE behaviourist.

poachedeggs Tue 07-May-13 23:01:33

Great advice so far and I second the suggestion to involved a behaviourist. You need someone adequately qualified though, so look for APBC or APDT membership ideally. If you can find a CCAB they are the highest level of qualification.

Clomicalm is a prescription drug which can help the process, so perhaps talk to your vet too. Good luck.

MagratGarlik Wed 08-May-13 07:57:14

I know you say he hates confined spaces, but have you tried crating him? Our whippy destroyed our utility room when we first got him and shut him in there (including chewing a hole in the heavy fire door), but was not as bad when crated, even though this space was even smaller!!!!

We had to crate him for the first 9 months we had him before he became relaxed enough with us leaving that we could give him the run of the hallway, but eventually it worked and we could be sure whilst he was in the crate that he was not destroying anything or hurting himself.

dandycandyjellybean Wed 08-May-13 14:18:28

Thanks for all your replies, realise that I need to bite the bullet and get to work!

MagratGarlik, I think he may have been left in a cupboard or crate for extreme periods pre-abandonment. He destroyed the fosterers crate in a couple of minutes cutting all his nose and mouth in the process, and when shut up at the vets in prep for his castration, they had to call and ask her to come and pick him up as he had chewed all the fur off the end of his tail within about 20 mins! sad

Moosemama, yes yes yes to the fuss thing. Kenny has the same way of squirming in and getting fuss without you even realising it!!! As long as some part of him is in contact with some part of you he's happy - he even ends up walking on the back of my flip flops!

dandycandyjellybean Wed 22-May-13 21:17:13

Just an update really, He is doing much better. I am religious about taking him for a wee and pooh walk before we leave him, and have started leaving the back door open (fortunately our positioning in relation to other terrace housing means we cannot be broken into from the rear). The combination of these 2 things, and I think that after 4 months he is finally starting to believe that he is here for good, is really starting to make a difference.

Also, doing all the de-sensitisation stuff you are suggesting, getting togged up with coat and keys repeatedly, etc. Thanks to everyone, and I will keep up with all your suggestions. xxx

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